Friday, August 04, 2006

Live Monkeys

A couple of nights ago a mate and I caught a gig that very few Melburnians were able to attend (although many, it seems, wanted to). At the Palace we bore witness to the Arctic Monkeys, wonders of the new musical age, live.

Before I go on, I just want to congratulate The Grates for one of the best support slots I've seen in many years. Energetic, colourful, enthusiastic, and with some great songs that, having never heard them all at once, I'd never attributed to the one band. Nice work.

With a record as strong as Whatever People Say I am, That's What I'm Not to perform, and a crowd as devoted and rabid as I haven't seen since Metallica in 1996, it's really impossible to do a bad show, and the Monkeys performed a one-hour set comprising of all the songs off that record minus Red Light Indicates Doors are Secure, plus three new tracks, the (very tall) crowd chanting along faithfully to every cockney word and convoluted lyric.
As I said, this was a good show, but it lacked one absolutely essential ingredient which stopped it from being a great show.
This was, quite possibly, the most professional, polished and rehearsed-to-within-an-inch-of-it's-life set of music I've ever seen. Songs segued into one another a number of times, but not in a spontaneous, Cat Empire-like explosion of impulsiveness, but because it had been decided upon much earlier. Songs refused to divert from the original structure and sound, either through bold improvisation or premeditated decision. And it was this lack of chaos that held the show back.
The great thrill of live music isn't the crowd, or the banter from the band (of which there was precious little, and it was mainly unintelligble. Whether through mumbling or a thick Sheffield accent, I'll never know). It's not the songs themselves, which you've probably heard a number of times. It's the feeling, in the back of your skull, that at any moment, something amazing, or awful, could happen. That's the magic moment. To be there when something incredible happens.
One of my favourite live music moments was seeing Snow Patrol last year. During the big, climactic, centrepiece number, the big, ballsy ballad, Run, just before the soaring, triumphant, minute-long guitar solo, Gary Lightbody trod on his lead, cutting out the sound of the aforementioned virtuoso performance. The crowd stood agog as he kept playing, waiting as a roadie came out, re-amplified his instrument, and he continued. After the solo, the closing chorus was to begin, and, as one, perhaps as a show of support, perhaps because it was the only bit much of the crowd knew, the audience sung for him. All four blokes stood on stage with "I can't believe a bunch of tossers from Scotland are having their song sung in Melbourne" smiles on their faces. And it was glorious.

And it never would have happened on Wednesday night.


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